The Buick Riviera is a personal luxury car produced by Buick from 1963 to 1999. GM’s first entry into that prestige niche, the Riviera was highly praised by automotive journalists upon its high-profile debut. While early models stayed close to the original form, subsequent generations varied substantially over the Riviera’s thirty-year lifespan. In all, 1,127,261 were produced.
Unlike its contemporary GM E platform stablemates, the Oldsmobile Toronado and Cadillac Eldorado, the Riviera only became front wheel drivestarting in 1979.
The Riviera name has been given to concept cars displayed at auto shows in 2007 and 2013 in hopes of resurrecting the marque, but no plans to do so are currently in place.
The name Riviera, Latin for coastline, was chosen to evoke the allure and affluence of the French Riviera. It first entered the Buick line in 1949, as the designation for the new two-door pillarless hardtop, described in advertising as “stunningly smart”. The Buick Roadmaster Riviera coupe (along with the Cadillac Coupe de Ville andOldsmobile 98 Holiday coupe) constituted the first mass production use of this body style, which was to become extremely popular over the next 30 years. Buick added a two-door Riviera hardtop to the Super the following year, the Special in 1951 and the Century upon its return, after a 12-year absence, in 1954.
From 1951 to 1953 the Riviera designation was given to the existing long wheelbase versions of the four-door Buick Roadmaster and Super sedans. The 1951–53 Buick Roadmaster and Super four-door Riviera sedans feature more standard features, more plush interior trim and, most significantly, a wheelbase (and overall length) that is 4 inches (102 mm) longer than a regular Buick Roadmaster or Super four-door sedan. The 1951–52 Buick Super four-door Riviera sedan is still 0.75 inches (19 mm) shorter in wheelbase and length than the regular Buick Roadmaster and 4.75 inches (121 mm) shorter than the Roadmaster four-door Riviera sedan. In 1953, with the move from the Fireball straight-eight to the more compact Nailhead V8 engine, the Roadmaster and Super four-door Riviera sedans became the same length.
In the middle of the 1955 model year, Buick and Oldsmobile introduced the world’s first mass-produced four-door hardtops, with Buick offering it only on the Century and Special models, and the Rivieradesignation was also applied to these body styles. Four-door Riviera hardtops were added to the Roadmaster and Super lines at the beginning of the following model year. However, since it was a body style designation and not a model, the Riviera name does not usually appear on the car.
In 1959, Buick became much more selective in applying the Riviera name. From then until 1962 it only was used to denote a premium trimmed six-window hardtop style which it initially shared exclusively with Cadillac (the Oldsmobile 98 would receive it in 1961) and was available only on the Electra 225. The last usage of the term Riviera to describe to describe a luxury trim level was 1963, as the formal designation of the #4829 Electra 225 Riviera four-door hardtop, the same year the E-body model two-door hardtop coupe Riviera made its debut.